Females make up small but growing percentage of electrical workers –
By Patricia Beech –
Growing up on a farm, Brandy Persch began bucking stereotypes at an early age. While most girls her age were pursuing more traditional, expected goals, she was scaling rafters in her family’s barn to help hang tobacco plants
“My parents always encouraged me,” she says. “When it came to what I wanted to achieve, they never said I couldn’t or shouldn’t – they said do it!”
Her love of the outdoors and climbing eventually led her down a unique career path not usually followed by women – working with electricity as a utility line worker. It’s a position she would like to see open up to more more women like herself, a line of work she says women don’t typically consider when entering the job market.
“Not all men are made for this job and not all women are made for this job,” she says. “But there is a percentage of women whose likes and strengths are geared toward this kind of work because they are physically strong and they love the outdoors, but, unfortunately, they don’t know that they’re ideally suited for this job.”
Line workers are responsible for building, maintaining, and restoring electrical service, most often during bad weather or following accidents that bring down power lines and destroy utility poles.
Persch says she worked for AEP for 15 years before becoming aware of what line workers do.
“I’d been sent on my first out-of-town trip to help assess storm damage when I first got to watch line crews working,” she says. “I started asking questions, and I decided I was all in, I really wanted to be a part of that work.”
Persch learned to climb poles, and when the opportunity arose, she began her line worker training in Columbus.
She says throughout her training, she was her own toughest critic.
“I don’t like failure, so for the first three years, I was mad at myself daily for not getting it,” she says. “But, in this job, there are going to be days when you’re not at 100 percent, that’s why we have checks and balances, and why people are always watching out for each other, to keep us safe.”
Traditionally considered a man’s job, utility line work did require that Persch improve her upper body strength, but she says the fact that men are capable of lifting heavier weights should not dissuade women from pursuing a line worker’s career.
“Men are naturally made to lift, but that doesn’t mean women are limited because they aren’t, its just something you have to work on,” she says. “We live in the greatest country known to man, and you can be anything you want to be – the only limits you have are those you put on yourself.”
While the aspect of dealing with electricity does keep both men and women from pursuing a line workers career, Persch says it isn’t a factor for her.
“You don’t teach yourself this job,” she says. “Our instruction comes from 40 plus years of wisdom gained by the linemen we work under who have learned from their mistakes. Safety is emphasized from the get-go, so when I’m up there working, I’m fully committed to being 100 percent correct, 100 percent of the time.”
She says being a woman in a field long dominated by men brings its own special challenges.
“As far as how I’m treated being on an all-male team – it isn’t difficult, but it’s the being ‘different’ that’s the white elephant in the room,” she says. “There are basic differences between men and women, and I’ve learned that what men say is exactly what they do.”
Persch lives on a farm near Cherry Fork with her husband Scott and their sons. She says her family is very supportive of her non-traditional career choice.
“Not every man would put up with their wife doing this kind of job,” she says. “It’s hard enough for a wife and children to deal with this job and what it requires, but to have a man and two boys standing behind me, I’m blessed.”